The word “track” may carry a negative connotation for some people and it doesn’t become and less negative when used in the context of mobile tracking. The notion that staying off the grid, for whatever reason, is becoming increasingly hard may be a bit unnerving for some cell phone users. The paranoia associated with phone trackers may not be without merit, but at the same time it is imperative to understand that the technology itself is not pure evil. Knowing how phone trackers work, their beneficiaries and the purpose the technology can serve may help to alleviate fears, to some extent at least.

How phone trackers perform the deed

For a phone tracker to function, there are certain conditions that must be met. Firstly, the cell phone must have Internet connectivity, either through data plan or Wi-Fi. Secondly, the tracking phone app, whether stealth or visible, must be installed on the cell phone and set up, which takes around five to seven minutes on average. Working GPS chip is an integral requirement for most cell phone trackers, though some tracking software can continue to monitor location even without it via cell tower and Wi-Fi.

The phone tracker can either use GPS to deduce the coordinates of the cell phone through trilateration, find the current location of the cell phone through multilateration of radio signals of radio signals between the cell phone and radio towers of the network, or locate the phone through Wi-Fi-based positioning system, which uses wireless access points and the strength of the signals received from the cell phone. The coordinates of the cell phone are sent to an online server or host device via Internet.

It must be noted that the functionality of some tracking software is not simply limited to monitoring of location, but may also include monitoring of phone activity and communications.

The beneficiaries of phone trackers

Cell phone owners, parents, employers, spouses, government, law authorities and cybercriminals are among the most notable beneficiaries of phone trackers. Other than its obvious use of locating a lost cell phone, tracking software can be used to ensure safety of loved ones, up productivity of employees, catch a cheating partner, find a mission person, catch a runaway criminal or mitigate security threats. When in the wrong hands, the technology can become dangerous as it can be used to stalk and gain an unsolicited access to the private communications and social life of the target phone owner.

Phone trackers in light of the law

Phone trackers generally fall in the gray area as far as their legal status is concerned. There is no constitutional guarantee on the privacy of telecommunications in America, which means that the use of location data is limited by law that can vary from state to state. In general, however, the use of phone tracker is legal if certain provisions are met. This includes informed consent of the target phone owner and reasonable business concerns. Even the government and law authorities are now allowed to track phones without obtaining warrant from the court.

In case the aforementioned provisions are not met, the use of phone tracker is illegal. Upon learning that they are being tracked, the cell phone owner can file a lawsuit against the accused on account of breach of privacy.

The use of phone tracker can be both justified and beneficial if done within the boundaries of law. It is true that cybercriminals can wreck havoc through the use of such technology, but at the same time, it must be realized that the very same technology can be used for fighting crime and reducing security threats.